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Front Page » August 1, 2006 » Local News » Utah, federal officials implement severe fire restriction...
Published 3,012 days ago

Utah, federal officials implement severe fire restrictions statewide


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By LES BOWEN
Sun Advocate reporter


A Price firefighter battles a grassfire west of U.S. Highway 6 in Helper last Thursday. Fire crews from Helper, Price and Wellington along with law enforcement personnel and paramedics were called to the scene shortly before 12:30 p.m. on July 27. The grassfire destroyed a vacant residence owned by Steven Montoya and threatened other structures.
Due to safety factors, a family occupying a home west of the destroyed structure was forced to remain inside until the fire could be controlled. Officials later allowed the family to evacuate the home.
The fire reportedly started west of Badlands Fab and Machine, then spread onto more than a dozen acres. The incident affected property owned by Utah Railway, the Utah Department of Transportation and at least nine individuals.
The fire crossed Frontage Road near Hardscrabble Creek. But crews stopped the flames from crossing U.S. 6. The fire spread to within a few yards of the railroad, burning a one-quarter mile long corridor from about 600 North to 300 North.

State and federal officials have increased fire restrictions at locations across the state.

In July, officials restricted the use of fireworks on all public lands.

Last week, severe restrictions were placed on all portions of the state west of Interstate 15 and all of Washington County.

And while the extreme conditions are in place throughout the rest of the state, fires burn across the rest of the state and residents are encouraged to be careful and prevent possible wildfires.

Last week, a fire in Helper burned 13 acres and destroyed a historic stone home.

The blaze was the fifth wildfire in Helper's district, including two near the mouth of Price Canyon, one in Kenilworth and one on the flats between Spring Canyon and Consumers Canyon.

More than 600 wildfires have been reported across the state in 2006, burning close to 200,000 acres.

While some of the wildfires have been started by lightning, many of the blazes have resulted from negligence or other factors which could have been prevented.

Three large scale wildfires have been reported recently in or near Carbon and Emery counties. Two fires on the east and rims of the Castle Valley are contained or extinguished, but one still burns south of the town of Emery.

The fire is five miles north of the Interstate 70 Ivie Creek rest area in a section of Fishlake National Forest, which is only accessible by foot.

The wildfire has burned an estimated 1,000 acres of mixed conifers in the rugged area. The area burned has no timber value and no private lands are at risk.

Officials are monitoring the fire for fire use and will continue to do so in order to prevent risk to life or property.

Individuals planning recreation in the western half of the state should be aware of the restrictions issued by an interagency order.

In the restricted area west of Interstate 15, fire officials have banned campfires, except in approved fire pits in improved campgrounds.

After crossing Frontage Road near Hardscrabble Creek, last Thursday's grassfire approaches the area adjacent to U.S. Highway 6. Local emergency crews stopped the flames from crossing the highway

Propane gas is allowed in all locations. Smoking is prohibited, except in vehicles, trailers, buildings or improved recreation sites or in areas more than three feet in diameter which have been cleared to mineral soil.

The ban on fireworks, tracer ammunition and other similar devices continues. Officials note that fireworks and similar devices are always illegal on federal lands.

Restrictions apply to all public lands, including land operated by the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, National Part Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state public lands.

The order does not apply to incorporated cities and towns and supersedes any previous fire restrictions for the affected area.

In issuing the restrictions, officials issued statements regarding the banned activities, many of which are applicable in other regions of the state, whether restrictions are in place or not.

Officials from various government agencies have found abandoned campfires. Several of the unattended campfires have escaped, putting emergency responders and the general public in harm's way.

Officials reminded the public to take the following precautions regarding campfires:

•Check local fire restrictions.

•Clear a campfire ring down to bare soil.

•Build a fire ring out of rocks. Keep the fire within a four-foot diameter with at least 10 feet cleared around the fire ring.

•Build fires away from overhanging branches, steep slopes and dry grasses.

•Never leave a campfire or burning briquettes unattended. Even a small breeze can cause a fire to spread rapidly.

•Keep a bucket of water and a shovel nearby.

•When putting a campfire out, drown it with water. Stir the fire using water and dirt until all the fuel is cold to the touch.

Never leave a fire until it is out cold.

•Never discard briquettes when they are hot.

•Dispose of charcoal briquettes by extinguishing completely with water and leave in an established campfire ring that is clear of vegetation or place briquettes in metal container that can be tightly closed.

•Do not place hot ashes or briquettes in dumpsters or dispose of them in paper, plastic or cardboard containers.

•Campers are also asked to be careful with gas lanterns, barbecues, gas stoves and anything that can be a source of ignition for a wildfire.

Another concern raised by fire officials relates to fires that can be caused by vehicles.

Fires ignited by vehicles can easily spread, destroying homes and natural resources.

Officials reminded all motorists to keep vehicle maintenance in mind as they enjoy the outdoors.

The following guidelines can help motorists prevent wildfires caused by motor vehicles:

•Follow all public-use restrictions and access closures. It is important to check with local agencies about closures before venturing off-road.

•Inspect vehicle tires. Check the tires on both motor vehicles and trailers before traveling.

Never overload trailers.

Overloading trailers can cause a tire to fail, causing grinding from the rim, which can start a wildfire.

•Keep vehicles off dry grass. Exhaust systems can heat up to 1,000 degrees and catalytic converter can reach 2,000 degrees in a short drive.

This can ignite grasses and shrubs, which ignite at temperatures as low as 450 degrees.

•Inspect trailer safety chains. Chains should be suspended above the ground and not dragging.

Sparks from dragging chains can start wildfires under current conditions.

•Check spark arrestor.

Before heading outdoors on an all-terrain vehicles, check the spark arrestor.

A properly functioning arrestor reduces the chances of sparks starting wildfires.

•Be prepared.

Carry a shovel and a fire extinguisher in vehicles and ATVs.

A third area of concern is target shooting.

Some of the fires across the state have been attributed to unsafe target shooting practices.

A ricochet from ammunition on nearby rocks or other materials can ignite grasses leading to a wildfire.

In addition to asking that target shooters follow safe practices, officials offer the following guidelines for the outdoor enthusiasts:

•Choose locations with little or no vegetation.

•Bring soft targets for shooting. Avoid shooting rocks, metal or pressurized containers.

•Be aware of the type of ammunition being used. Certain types of ammunition may increase sparks.

•Tracer bullets are illegal on all public lands in Utah.

•Consider using a target range which offers added safety.

•Use eye and protection.

•Clean up litter and used shell casings.

Finally, officials remind the public that intentionally starting a fire on another person or agency's land is arson, a felony level criminal offense.



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